Health Navigator

Associate of Applied Science Degree & Certificates

Community Health Worker - Health Navigator

Transforming Healthcare. Improving Outcomes. Reducing Costs.

A Health Navigator is an individual who works as part of a health care team or with a health care system to reduce barriers to accessing care. They guide individuals and families through the complex health care system, ensuring they fully utilize the services most appropriate for and available to them. This includes:

• Linking patients with services;
• Providing information and resources;
• Helping providers interact with patients; and
• Offering health education and promoting behavior changes.

Health Navigator includes Patient Navigator, Resource Navigator, Lay-Navigator, Non-licensed Navigator, etc., but not licensed providers or lay Community Health Workers.

Distance Learning Option

Study from home with full access to OJC faculty for support.
Scholarships and Financial Aid available for those who qualify.



CHW class

While a patient navigator works with individuals in health delivery settings, the community health worker works with individual residents in community settings.

Community Health Workers are trusted members of the community or intended population whom they serve.  CHWs are connectors to health care system (providers, hospitals, community health programming, etc.) through referrals (“warm-handoffs”) based on relationships built with those systems and knowledge of interested individuals/entities within their community.  CHWs implement outreach within their communities to provide basic health assessments and health education, community advocacy and capacity building/empowerment and connect/refer to culturally-tailored resources to reduce risk factors of the social determinants of health.  CHWs may provide language interpretation and cultural brokering to assure culturally responsive services for their clients.

Employment opportunities are expected to grow nationally as a result of changes in health care. Preparation includes information and hands-on training in those skills needed to carry out this work, including written and verbal communication, ethics, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, human growth & development, barriers to health, basic health problems, community resources, cultural competency, end of life care, work habits and organization.

The course can be completed in one year of full-time study. This program prepares individuals for employment as Community Health Workers. Community Health Workers will assist clients, in a variety of settings serving as facilitators, advocates, and referral professionals linking them to health care and related social services.


HEALTH NAVIGATOR - AAS Degree with Emphasis

OJC is also working with four-year schools around the state to articulate this program to a bachelor’s degree.

Career Ladder

CHW Student Outreach



The student must apply for general college admission to Otero Junior College. Applying to OJC is free and can be completed online at: or a print copy can be downloaded from that site.

In addition the student is required to:

1. Be a graduate of an accredited high school or equivalent.

2. Complete a background check and drug screen:

a. Practicum facilities require students to complete a drug screen prior to participating in field experience. This will be arranged through the college. Please plan to follow the procedures promptly when notified.

b. Students are required to take and pass the background check available at this web site address:

Note: The cost of the background check and drug screen is the responsibility of the students and is in addition to the cost of tuition and fees.


CHW Instructors

About the Program

Health Navigation Program at OJC Recognized for Excellence

Health Navigation Program Excellence

Otero Junior College’s Health Navigation program received honors as a Colorado Community College System Outstanding Program on April 8 in Denver.  Kaysie Schmidt, OJC Health Navigation faculty, accepted the award along with OJC President Jim Rizzuto.


  • Health Navigator Success Stories

    Health Navigator Success Stories: Denise Goodwin

    Denise Goodwin of Swink was one of the first to complete the Community Health Worker certificate program at Otero Junior College. She is also in the first group of students working toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Navigation.

    Goodwin, a wife and mother of three, worked at the Colorado Boys Ranch (CBR) in La Junta for twelve years. CBR was an inpatient psychiatric treatment facility for youth ages 12-21 that closed a few years ago. Goodwin worked in the enrollment department assisting parents in getting the funding needed.

    Recognizing the potential of Health Navigation as an emerging field and a way of giving back to the community by helping others to achieve their own needs, Goodwin jumped at the chance to be in the inaugural class at Otero Junior College.

    Goodwin reports that instructors like Kaysie Schmidt, director and faculty of the Health Navigator Program, have helped her to see her own potential in this field.

    Goodwin will not only graduate with an Associate in Applied Science degree in Health Navigation this spring, but will also receive an Associate of Arts degree.

    Health Navigator Success Stories: Leslie Cordova

    Health Navigator Success Stories: Leslie Cordova

    Leslie Cordova, one of the first students to obtain a Certificate as a Community Health Worker (CHW) from Otero Junior College (OJC), seeks to make Huerfano County a healthier community.

    Cordova, who works in Walsenburg for Spanish Peaks Outreach and Women’s Clinic, in their Colorado Healthy Heart Solutions (CHHS) program, is a wife and mother of two grown sons.

    While she has always been active in the community, she saw the need to enhance her knowledge of community resources and learn additional methods to effectively help clients to make positive behavior changes. She states that while obtaining her CHW certificate at OJC, she met these needs.

    Because Cordova lives a good distance from OJC, she was also grateful that the program staff worked with her and created online hybrid classes that did not require her to travel to campus for every class. OJC also accepted her credits from two previous schools, which allowed her to keep her costs down.

    Cordova plans to further her education with the goal of a Bachelor of Science degree and licensure as a registered nurse.

  • Health Navigator in the News


This program is sponsored by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment through the Cancer, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Disease (CCPD) Grants Program.

This program was established by Southeast Health Group and Funding Opportunity Number CMS-1C1-12-0001 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.  The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of the authors and to not necessarily represent the official views of funders or any of its agencies.